I think before we go much further down this rabbit hole, at least for this particular post, we need to discuss two specific branches of the nervous system. The Sympathetic Nervous System also known as the "Fight or Flight" side and the Parasympathetic Nervous System often referred to as the "Rest and Digest" side. It is much more complex than these simplistic names I am giving here, but it definitely gives us a starting point for this discussion. We can figure out from the names above what the primary role of these two sides of the nervous system entail, but I would encourage my readers to start thinking about how these two systems can influence things like sleep, workouts, nutrition, heart rate variability, endocrine response, productivity etc. Take a week or so to really understand what is happening in your body. In future posts I will start to break down some more specific examples. Trust me the rabbit hole is deep and has huge implications for our health. Look carefully at the following lists. They are by no means exhaustive lists, but if you look carefully at the two states of your nervous system, you will quickly identify those that are conducive to things like exercise, sleep/recovery, and optimal digestion/nutrition. To say that the state of your nervous system doesn't matter is ludicrous! The state of our nervous system is the context in which we train, eat, recover and it means everything, Context matters, without context the messages and the signals to our body are convoluted and distorted.
Sympathetic Nervous System:
- Prepares the body for vigorous activity.
- Stimulates the endocrine system to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
- Increases blood flow to the extremities and muscles.
- Increases heart rate.
- Slows digestion.
- Increasing respiration.
- Slows the heartbeat.
- Lowers Blood Pressure.
- Constricts the Pupils.
- Normalizes breathing.
- Normalizes blood flow to all parts of the body.
- Normalizes and stimulates digestion.
- Decreases release of stress hormones and increases production of "feel good" hormones and neurotransmitters.